Chocolate and chestnut cake and a year in review


This is what goes through my mind when I think of 2012.

I traveled, met people, published a book, taught, learnt, and watched Jon and Miren grow so quickly. He turned 6, she turned 3. They came along on many of my trips and I could see their minds explode with curiosity and imagination.

After so much coming and going, I was looking forward to spending time with family in December. I was so happy to have my parents home for Christmas and have my mom cook fish soup for me – I ate it three days in a row, that’s how much I love that dish.

While I was looking through all these images, I was filled with gratitude for those who have been a part of my life this year, lending a hand and guiding me.


We spent winter mostly at home as I continued with the copyediting of my manuscript. It was an unusually warm season, even for Florida standards, so we took full advantage and went to the beach as much as we could. We even went fishing on the beach several times. Remember the bluefish?

One of my fondest memories is when we visited the Uncle Matt’s citrus grove in Clermont and we picked the sweetest oranges right from the tree. Must plan a visit soon again.

At the end of March, we traveled back to the Basque Country looking for blossoms and the baby sheep. I missed home dearly and we arrived at a perfect time when the landscape began turning green again and wildflowers dressed the fields.

Spring in the Basque Country

In April, I taught a food styling and photography workshop in Boulder as part of The Makerie retreat. Boulder was also blooming and sunny and all the beautiful things I remembered about the Colorado Spring. I felt very inspired, so much so, that I will be returning this upcoming April.

Shortly after, Jon, Miren and I traveled to Vermont to see Nadia who kindly opened her home to us so we could shoot the trailer for my book with Ryan Marshall. It was frigid cold, but somehow felt so right for what we had envisioned. I remember on our last morning when we shot the picnic scene… It was about 25 degrees outside, the apple blossoms frozen, but the light beaming. We ran across the field in the cold and it was just so beautiful. I have spoken about the trailer and Ryan many times on the blog, but in case you have not seen it, here it is. One of the most beautiful things I have been part of this year. Thank you to Nadia and Ryan once again for making this happen.


Another proud moment for me this year was when this blog was nominated for a James Beard Award. How could I describe the feeling? Surreal sums it all. I got dressed up, I put on some high heels, which I rarely wear, and joined some of the most talented people in food for an evening of celebration. I did not win, but many friends did and was just honored to be in such company.


Summer was full of travel and excitement.

We started with a trip to Seattle as I was speaking at BlogHer Food.

Then I traveled to Montreal where I taught a food styling and photography workshop at SAT Labo. I finally met Mayssam in person after years of communicating via email and spent some lovely days in her company visiting the best food spots in the city. I am still dreaming about our dinner at 400 des coups and Joe Beef with a great group of friends. I am so happy I will be visiting Montreal once again in a few weeks. Thank you Mayssam for all your help this year.

Right after Montreal, Jon, Miren and I traveled to New York City for a photo shoot for Whole Living magazine. Nadia joined us once again and we strolled the city during one of the hottest weekends of the year. The lobby at the Ace hotel became our haven and I will treasure those photo booth moments forever. Did you see the beautiful story that Marcus Nilsson photographed with my recipes?

Summer in Vermont

In July, when we couldn’t take the Florida heat any longer, we asked Nadia if we could come retreat to the hill for a few days. I longed for a cooler summer, with berry picking trips and fresh air. Jon and Miren love visiting Nadia and the hill and once again felt right at home. Romina joined us as well. We laughed, relaxed and cooked with summer rain and breeze as a backdrop. Just what we needed. Thank you Nadia once again for your hospitality and Romina for the delicious macarons (Jon still talks about your madeleines).

Workshop in Whistler

August was also full of excitement with another trip to New York City to attend Nikole Herriott‘s workshop at Sunday Suppers. Can I tell you Nikole is just as delightful as she appears?

Then came a food styling and photography retreat in Whistler. Summer in the PNW is brilliant. We visited a plentiful farm, had a picnic on top of Whistler mountain, styled and photographed summer foods on a house by the lake and ate delicious local food every night. Thank you Angela and Nadia for all your hard work. The full story here.

Workshop in France

As you see, there were many workshops this year, 5 of them to be exact.

We returned to Beynac, France. 8 amazing women from all over the world joined Nadia, Stephanie and myself for 5 days of hard work and fun. You can see the full post here and thank you Stephanie and Nadia for everything.


Autumn began with the most memorable trip to Alaska. The Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute took us fishing and hiking and we ate some amazing local fare. I have so many images to go through… stay tuned. I will share in the upcoming weeks.

In October, I taught another food styling and photography workshop at Sunday Suppers – the most beautiful space. Can you believe it was my third time there? I was happy to be able to join Karen once again in her studio. I also hosted a cooking class and supper with recipes from my book, which was very well received. Thank you Karen for all your hard work and sharing your gorgeous space with me.

Small Plates and Sweet Treats

And then came one of the most significant moments of the year – the launch of Small Plates and Sweet Treats. Two years in the making and very emotional time for me.

It really was a dream come true to be able to host the launch party on the top floor of the Martha Stewart building surrounded by people I admire and people who have supported my work along the way. We celebrated the October issue of Whole Living magazine where we were featured as well as my book. One of the most exciting parts of the evening was when I got to meet Pierre Schaedelin. He was Martha’s personal chef at one point and I remember how much I loved his cooking segments in the old shows. On top of it all, Pierre himself cooked recipes from my book to serve to the guests that evening. It really was an honor for me.

The book tour continued with events in New York City, Anthropologie in Florida, a cooking segment on New Day NW in Seattle, and more book signings in Florida, Seattle and Boston. Thank you to everyone at Little, Brown and my agent Judy Linden for all their hard work.

I am so happy to say the book has been receiving great reviews. From the New York Times, GOOP, The Kitchn, Saveur, and many more…

Sara Moulton also picked it as one of the best cookbooks of the year on Good Morning America.

I am completely humbled and thankful.

It has been a very full year. Busy, fruitful, creative, demanding, and filled with much generosity. Thank you to all of you who have continued to support my work.

And so I leave you with this recipe for chocolate, chestnut and amaretti cake, which I am enjoying at the moment with a cup of chamomile.

Here is to a peaceful and healthy 2013!

Chocolate, chestnut and amaretti cake

makes an 8-inch cake

4 ounces (110 g) 70% chocolate, finely chopped
2 ounces (55 g) milk chocolate, finely chopped
8 tablespoons (110 g) unsalted butter, cut into 1-inch pieces, plus more for greasing pan
1/3 cup (75 g) chestnut puree
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise and seeds scraped
4 eggs, separated
1/2 cup (100 g) natural cane sugar
1/2 cup (50 g) chestnut flour
1/2 cup (60 g) millet flour
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
3 amaretti cookies, crushed

Preheat oven to 350F (180C). Line the bottom of an 8-inch cake pan with a piece of parchment paper and grease the sides with a bit of butter.

Combine the first five ingredients together in a medium heatproof bowl. Place the bowl over a pot of simmering water. The water should not touch the bottom of the bowl. Stir until all ingredients melt together. Remove the bowl from the pot. Remove the vanilla bean and set aside to cool slightly.

In a large bowl, whisk together the yolks and half of the natural cane sugar. (Do not let the sugar sit on top of the yolks without stirring or the yolks will begin to “burn”). Add the cooled chocolate mixture and whisk to combine. Fold in the chestnut flour, millet flour and salt.It will be a thick mixture.

In a medium bowl, whip together the egg whites until light and ribbons begin to form. Slowly add the remaining sugar while continue to whip. Whip until peaks start to form. Fold in a third of the whipped whites into the chocolate mixture. Mix briskly if needed until the whites lighten the base. Now add another third of the whipped whites but this time, fold gently not to deflate too much. Add the rest of the whites and fold until there are no more streaks of meringue. Pour the mixture into the prepared pan. Top with crushed amaretti.

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes. The center will be slightly moist still, brownie-like. let the cake cool in the pan for 20 minutes and then invert onto a cooling rack. Store in the refrigerator wrapped in plastic. It will become moister as it sits.

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126 Responses to “Chocolate and chestnut cake and a year in review”

  1. Andreia says:

    Happy New Year Aran!

    So beautiful yaer in review! Loved all the beautiful photos and recipes! Thanks for thos great blog!

  2. Elisa says:

    what a bountiful year you had! Hope the upcoming year will surpass it all! And your photography seems to embellish it even more… and that is the magic of photography to me: you learn to look at the most beautiful and unexpected details of reality and life, and engrave them in your memory. Your photos will always be there to remind you of the beauty of your life, which otherwise sometimes seems to pass by unnoticed!
    I wish you and your family the best from this new year to come… and to your career too! I’m sure it has barely begun to show you its bounty :)
    and, by the way, this cake looks so yummy! Hadn’t I already done one, I would have baked it right away for my Granny’s birthday, it seems to be just the kind of cake she enjoys…

  3. Ruth Ann says:

    Beautiful, beautiful year- thanks so much for sharing and congrats on your nominations, publications and of course your beautiful children.
    Happy New Year!
    -Ruth Ann

  4. Juliana says:

    Beautiful recap and a lovely recipe I will definitely try.

    Wishing you a happy and prosperous 2013!

  5. Stephanie says:

    An absolutely, positively beautiful post….I enjoyed it immensely! Congratulations on all your success this year, Aran.

  6. Fitri says:

    Happy New Year, Aran.. Congratulations for everything nice you’ve got !! Wishing you the best in a new year , more healthy, happy and sexy .. :D

  7. Happy New Year Aran Amazing Post xxx =)

  8. Leslie Plumb says:

    After quite a few unsuccessful attempts with gluten free baking using different cookbooks, I had simply given up. It was either the recipes or me, but either way things just weren’t working out! The look on my husband’s face after eating one of my gluten free cookies… it broke my heart because I used to be a good baker before I developed gluten intolerance.

    After meeting you in Boston and purchasing your book, I put on my apron today and made your pistachio shortbreads with the flours you recommended. I don’t mind telling you I was nervous. I watched my husband like a hawk when he bit into the pistachio shortbread cookies I made today. His smile lit up the room and he said “these are really, really good.” It was a total SUCCESS. My husband (and our guests) loved them. THANK YOU, THANK YOU, THANK YOU.

    Your gift for pastry has brought joy to my little family on Cape Cod and has made my gluten intolerance less of a burden. I finally feel like me again in the kitchen — all thanks to your brilliant recipes. All of your tips and techniques (and attention to detail) made all the difference. I read every single word of your book, cover to cover. What a revelation. You have a real gift. I will be the first person in line for your next cookbook. Please keep them coming!!!

    • Aran says:


      That is so wonderful to hear. Truly a gift for me to know that my recipes are being put to good use and that are helping make life a little bit more enjoyable. Thank you for sharing it with me. Happy 2013!

  9. Sarah says:

    I am so happy for you. Your 2012 sounds like a dream. I’m sure it was not without trials, but truly, it seems as though you are on a wonderful path in your life! I find it so inspirational, thankyou for sharing it all.

    • Aran says:

      Thank you very much Sarah. And yes, you are right. Not without its trails. I feel it’s important to also mention the hard work and craziness that all of this brings. I wouldn’t be able to manage the chaos without my friends and family for sure. Happy 2013 and thank you!

  10. Sina says:

    What a wonderful recap of a fruitful year. May you have many!

  11. Sukaina says:

    What a beautiful recap and what an eventful year you have had. I’m envious of all the travels you’ve had :) have a most wonderful new year and may it bring all you wished for and more.

  12. Dear Aran, What a truly amazing year you have had and such talent! Congratulations. I wish you and your family a healthy and happy New Year and continuing success. Looking forward to reading your blog in the New Year. xxx from New Zealand.

  13. A beautiful year Aran!
    I didn’t know you went to Les 400 Coups in Montréal. Nadia gave me the address when we went in August. I loved it.
    Bonne année and happy 2013!

  14. Thank you, Aran, for another wonderful year. Reading your blog is my weekly treat, so I can honestly say you make my year happier!

    Wishing you and your family a wonderful 2013!

  15. Laura says:

    Congratulations on all your achievements this year! Thank you for sharing. It truly is an adventure every time. Happy New Year.

  16. Thank you so much, Aran, for sharing your amazing work. I have made many of your recipes this year, each one of them more delightful than the other. Just got your wonderful book for Christmas and will be making many more of your creations in 2013. Your story is truly inspiring, your photography stunning. Your blog has brought beauty and goodness into my life and my family, so thank you very much. Wishing you a fulfilling new year with joy, health and peace.

  17. Tracey says:

    Congrats on all of your success this year Aran, and I know that 2013 is going to full of even more wonderful things! Happy New Year! So glad to know you.

  18. Happy New Year, Aran to you and your family! Thank you for a wonderful year of pictures, recipes and the opportunity to do the food photography course in Montreal in June. It was a wonderful experience! Just received your cookbook as a Christmas gift and excited to try the recipes.
    Looking forward to 2013 and all that you bring us. Truly inspirational, delicious & beautiful.

  19. Wow. You have had quite a year. Beautiful post. Beautiful pictures.

    It was so nice to have had a chance to meet you a few weeks ago.

    All the best to you and your family this upcoming year.

  20. Hege says:

    Happy New Year! Your blog is fantastic! hx

  21. Ginger G says:

    … so nice meeting you at New Day Northwest !
    Feliz Año Nuevo!

  22. Ginger G says:

    … cooking segment for New Day NW leads to another site, not theirs

  23. Itxaso A says:

    Zorixonak joan dan urtiegatik, ondo bukatu urtie ta hobeto hasi datorrena!
    Zeure bloga irakurtzen jarraitzeko irrikiten ta liburuko neguko errezetakin hasteko gogoakin jada! :)
    Zorrontzatik (oporretan) gorantziek!

  24. Jaime says:

    Happy & Blessed New Year Aran! It’s been a wonderful year following your journey through delicious recipes and stunning photography – may there be many more years to follow :-)

  25. Lisa b says:

    Truly inspired by your book and artistry —stunning photography and everything I have made tastes amazing! Yum. Thank you to you and Megan at fig & fauna -nice day at her farm and to see your demo- ps I have kumquat tree if you would like some
    Congrats and wishing you and your family a wonderful 2013!

  26. Hi, Aran! Happy new year to you and your wonderful family! Thank you for sharing your year with us. It sounds corny and all, but I just wanted to let you know that my life is all the more richer because of you and your inspirational site / blog / images. Whenever I am exhausted (from chasing my three kids aged 5, 2, and baby), I retreat to your blog or your wonderful cookbook and enjoy the beautiful images of nature and food. Whenever I am stumped at what to feed the family, I turn to your site and your book for ideas. Whenever I simply want to stare at gorgeous tableware and fabrics (which I happen to collect), I devour your images. Thanks for sharing all these beautiful things with us. I am sure many different women feel the same way as I do! That said…All the best to you – in love, health, and wealth!

  27. olatz says:

    Kaixo Aran! Urte berri on Donostiatik! Asko disfrutatzen dut zure bloog honekin.
    Zure liburua erdaraz argitaratuko duzue? Gustatuko litzaidake,muxu handi bat Euskalerritik,aio!!!!!!!!

  28. Shelby says:

    What a year!!! Thank you so much for this beautiful post, collecting 12 months worth of talent, hard work, creative vision and inspiration… Here’s to many more in 2013!!

  29. Just to let you know, one of the pictures above has become my desktop background image in the office PC.
    Have a wonderful new year!

  30. Charlene Wyenberg says:

    Happy New Year Aran! My husband bought me your cookbook for Christmas and I was moved to tears as its so beautiful and very well done. I’m baking the Seed Bread as I write this. Keep up the good work.

  31. Virginia says:

    Love it!!!
    Everytime loving your blog.The most beautiful pics ever!!!
    I wish you and your family the best for 2013, kisses eta besarkada handi bat Donostitik!!!

  32. Kelly says:

    Happy New Year Aran! WOW! What a wonderful year, congratulations! I hope 2013 brings you many more wonderful and exciting things.

  33. Sharon says:

    Wishing you continued success in the new year!

    BTW -Made the chocolate chestnut cake this evening. It’s wonderful! Thanks for sharing this!

  34. Sihi says:

    Happy New Year, Aran. Wish you greater success in the year ahead. Each visit to your blog is truly enchanting and motivating. You rock, totally!

  35. Anni says:

    Dear Aran,

    I have enjoyed all the recipes and adventures you have taken me on this year! Thank you so much for continuing to be such an inspiration. Your radiant blog makes the cold and dark winter days in Finland so much more bearable. Just makes me think about all the wonderful things to bake.

    I ordered your book and was so excited to finally have a copy in my hands. It was a relaxing holiday morning, just laying in bed and going through each page of the book. I then had to leave for Turkey but I am now waiting to go back home so I can start trying the recipes.

    Just wanted to say happy new year to you and your family! Hope 2013 brings you lots of beautiful and exciting memories! Thank you so much for the book, this blog and sharing them with us!

    Best wishes,
    your faithful reader and fan,
    from Finland,

  36. Lisa says:

    I am a fan of your beautiful website. Love the stories and the pictures! Just bought your cookbook and look forward to try the recipes :-)

    For this cake could you recommend if we could replace the Chestnut flour with other types of flour? I live in Singapore and haven’t seen Chestnut flour here in the stores. Thanks!

    • Aran says:

      Hi Lisa,

      For this cake almond flour would work great. Can you get it in Singapore? You could also make it yourself by finely grinding almonds in the food processor (best if you grind them with a bit of the millet flour). Hope that helps!

  37. Megan says:

    Happy New Year Aran! I loved looking back at your 2012 highlights, what a year you’ve had! Thank you for continuing to be such an inspiration, your work is beautiful. Wishing you a lovely 2013!

  38. Love it. Sharing your chocolate and chestnut cake on our blog! Cheers.

  39. Adi says:

    Happy New Year, Aran!

    This cake sounds amazing! I wounder, if I don’t have the GF flours, can I change them to regular flour?
    Also, the Amaretti cookies – do you use the soft or hard ones?


  40. Sarah says:

    Thank you for the gift of sharing with us. I am truly uplifted and inspired. I have tried your recipes to great satisfaction. I have shared your blog with everyone I can think of, particularly my graceful gluten-free sister-in-law who seems to share the essence of Canelle et Vanille. And I have been swept away by your photos, particularly the photo of the trees lining the water in the Dordogne. I must go there and see! Thank you.

  41. Diana says:

    As always stunning pictures! Your year looked beautiful!

  42. I just wanted to let you know that I love coming to your site and staring at your photography. It’s like staring at beautiful art in a museum. The colors that you choose are so appealing to the eye, and your styling is so creative and well thought out.

  43. Gosh, Aran. I just loved reviewing all those vignettes so nicely arranged, season-to-season. The color palettes shifting, the patterns and foods doing each their dance – so lovely. What an incredibly full year!!!

    Here’s to a magnificent 2013, and to lots of great eating and sharing! xo Melina

  44. Happy New Year Aran, a beautiful and amazing 2012, you inspired us with your wonderful posts, photos and recipes. A successful book which I love, though I wish it was a signed copy! Wish you a blessed, successful and prosperous 2013.
    Best wishes

  45. Bonbon Oiseau says:

    Happy New Year Aran and I am so proud of you for all your amazing accomplishments! Congratulations…hope you are well xoxo

  46. Itxaso G says:

    Urte barri on, Aran! Zelan Gabonak? Gurasoakaz elegante, ez? Gu be EHn egon gara eta eguaztenean bagoaz ya horrantza.
    Zelango urtea auki dozun… Zorionak!!!
    Mosu handi bet eta gorantziek.

  47. Karina says:

    Hi, I want to make this beautiful cake for my sons birthday. Do you think I can use coconut oil instead of the butter? My daughter can’t have any dairy.
    Thanks ;-)

  48. Preveena says:

    Wishing you a blessed year! Your photographs are so amazing.


  49. Dana says:

    Happy New Year, Aran, and thank you for the lovely recipes, words and photos. I received your book this weekend and made the apple olive oil cake and the hazelnut chocolate cakes for my small family. My 4 year old son stood on his little blue stool and helped mix the cakes. I cant wait to cook my way through the book: savory recipe followed by a sweet treat. Here’s to another great year.


  50. susan says:

    What a great year, Aran. You need a well deserved rest to bask in the glory of your success. Happy New Year!

  51. Päivi says:

    Oh my, how beautiful pictures!

  52. ooh this sounds so good, been wondering what to do with a lonely tin of chestnut puree, now I have inspiration! Definitely trying it and will link back to you, thank you and Happy New Year

  53. Rachel says:

    Just discovered you from a link at Chocolate and Zucchini — what a lovely website. Your photos are gorgeous, and really make me want to try some of the recipes :)

    Will definitely be back! Happy New Year.

  54. […] can’t wait to try this delicious looking Chocolate and Chestnut Cake – […]

  55. Happy New Year! I loved looking over your year in review and was especially amazed to see the picture of the jumping fish- great photography!!

  56. I LOVE THIS BLOG! love love love! Greatings from Poland nad my little blog :) !

  57. J says:

    Dear Aran,

    I love your blog, amazing photos! Id like to make the chestnut cake from this post, but I cant find chestnut flower, only chestnut puree…can I substitute the flower with puree?

    Thank you!



  58. pinkóci says:

    Thanks for the recipe :)
    I made it some minor changes to make it more healthier, but I have to tell you – this is the most delicious cake I’ve ever baked!!! :)

  59. […] Chocolate and chestnut cake and a year in review […]

  60. Boyd Stewart says:

    I have just discovered you Blog. Big thank you for using metric measurements in your recipes,
    so many american site ommit to do this. I teach Patisserie in a college in Edinburgh and I am alway scouring the net for ideas and inspiration. Hope to contribute egularly.

  61. chefgonin says:

    mmmm interesting recipes, good pictures, very tasty resemble the Mediterranean cuisine which we do in Spain. We invite you to visit my blog from Spain, with traditional recipes from the State of Valencia.

    This week “The Giraboix” in

    Going to lose?

  62. Gwen says:

    I have discovered your blog and book through a friend, and each recipe is an invitation to treat and share! The text is smart and pictures are beautiful. And I can now enjoy gluten-free recipes that are not boring. A big thank you from France!

  63. […] can’t wait to try this delicious looking Chocolate and Chestnut Cake – […]

  64. I just discovered your blog and I am delighted! I love chocolate, prepared in every possible way!!Thank you for this wonderful recipe!!!

  65. Such a stunning blog. I love the recipe too – is chestnut flour relatively easy to find? I’m in LA, and I will scout around for it. Such extraordinary and rich photos. Congratulations. Sophie

    • Aran says:

      Hi Sophie, you might have to go to an italian specialty shop or a health food store that sells many flours. I get mine online from different places. Thanks.

  66. […] Chocolate, Chestnut and Amaretti Cake from Cannelle et Vanille […]

  67. […] When I saw this chocolate chestnut and amaretti cake I thought that I had died. And gone to […]

  68. […] of these recipes that I recently tried,  Chestnut Chocolate Cake from Cannelle et Vanille, called for tinned chestnut puree.  The recipe used less than a quarter of the tin that I bought, […]

  69. Margot Campbell says:

    wonderful chocolate cake.

  70. […] Chocolate, Chestnut and Amaretti Cake from Canelle et Vanille […]

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